Monday, December 7, 2009

"Parking Court" follows in the unconstitutional steps of Traffic Court of Marion County

I put "Court" in quotes because some are questioning if it actually is a real court or not. But we'll get to that later.

First, Mayor Greg Ballard issued a press release, which you can read here:

INDIANAPOLIS – On December 1st, the City of Indianapolis will pilot a parking citation court in an effort to improve the way the city collects revenue from parking citations. The court will hold hearings at the former Guardian Home facility and will be managed five days a week to give violators an opportunity to pay outstanding citations.

"We have seen a significant lack of collections with unpaid parking citations and feel this is a way to increase revenue while working under our Six Sigma process to manage the program with greater efficiencies," said Manuel Mendez, Deputy Controller.

Using Six Sigma process improvement strategies, it is estimated that under this program the City may collect an additional $352,000 to $520,000 in parking citation revenue over the next 12 months.

The parking citation court will be managed by T2 Systems, which currently oversees the City’s collections and software for parking tickets. The court, which will hold hearings on a daily basis, will allow violators increased opportunities from the currently run system which holds hearings every two weeks.

"Our goal with this program is to assist the City in collecting parking citation revenue. Working together with the City, T2 Systems also offers payment options over the Internet, mail or IVR to make paying citations as easy and convenient as possible," said Jim Zaloudek, Chief Financial Officer for T2. "This allows us to fulfill our role of helping the City’s parking operations be as profitable and efficient as possible."

If citations are not paid prior to their scheduled hearing, the City may request a fine of up to $2,500 per citation. Upon receiving a judgment for an unpaid citation, individuals responsible could be subject to collections actions or having their vehicle registration suspended.

The citation court opens Tuesday, December 1st from the hours of 9am to 3pm at the Guardian Home located at 5751 University Ave.

Ok, so this "court" has no actual judges, or anything resembling a court. It is being run by a for-profit company, T2 Systems, which just so happens to be the same company that manages the collection of parking tickets and the software used to assist in the process. In other words, they have a vested interest in making sure these kingpins of, average citizens, pay their parking tickets.

The Indianapolis Star published two articles. Both are pretty much a slight variation of the press release from the city, but the second had one sentence that I long suspected:

T2 Systems, a private contractor that runs parking ticket collections and software for the city, handles the additional court operations. Those costs will be covered by revenues from parking tickets.

Yep, that's right. The for-profit company in charge of the court and in charge of collecting fines is going to be financed by...well, the fees it collects.

"But Matt, how is any of this unconstitutional?" I'm glad you asked. Article I, Section 16 of the Indiana Constitution has this to say:

Excessive bail or fines, Cruel and unusual punishment
Excessive bail shall not be required. Excessive fines shall not be imposed. Cruel and unusual punishments shall not be inflicted. All penalties shall be proportioned to the nature of the offense.

In addition to the above, Traffic Court is also closed to the public, where the Constitution makes it very clear in that "All courts must be open." I imagine Parking "court" follows a similar rule.

Add this on top of the broken promises of Mayor Greg Ballard. He's pushed for higher taxes to cover his buddies at the Capitol Improvement Board, supported the Health and Hospital Corporation's scheme of a new hospital (and used city resources to promote it), supported the hike in water rates, and has failed to get enough money to hire the 50 new police officers his budget promised.

He has gone out of his way to support his well connected country club friends and screw the average citizen. It is a huge disappointment.

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